Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Mel Flannery Trucking Co. unleashes jazz-pop with confident, beautiful vocals and a few misses

March 17, 2010

Mel Flannery Trucking Co.’s jazzy, keys-heavy As It Turns Out gives a little too much of a good thing.

Mel Flannery’s voice is a delight; it’s smooth, warm and crisp. The clarity and passion of the songs show that she has confidence in both her songwriting and vocal skills. Highlight “Gone” sees her nailing a difficult vocal line and leading a choir through an excellent pop song populated by gentle keys, pulsing bass and jazzy drums. You’ll hit repeat, almost assuredly. The song just oozes charisma.

Other songs feature the jazz elements of her sound more prominently. “You Know What to Do” sees her in come-hither lounge singer mode over a syncopated keys line. “I Need You Here With Me” shows a forlorn black-and-white movies nightclub singer side of her. These three elements of her personality shine, as she has very obviously polished these.

The problem comes in the songs that stray from her easygoing, seductive pop. “(You Are the Only One For Me)” is a giddy love song written on guitar, and it only serves to break up the album in an uncomfortable, annoying way. “Without You” barely keeps its head up under the weight of its narrator’s depression, although it does fare better than “Lift Me Up, Tie Me Down.” “Lift Me Up…” is a depressing, introspective tune, and it sounds confident musically but misplaced lyrically and mood-wise on this album of otherwise slinky and assured tunes. Even “Running,” a tune about physical spousal abuse, comes off with a assured swagger, as the song’s battered woman books it from the bad relationship with little more than a middle finger left behind.

Mel Flannery Trucking Co.’s As It Turns Out is a collection of tunes that suffer from trying to do too much. Flannery has the seductive song down pat, as well as the gentle, lilting pop song. The great success of her hits only make her misses that much more obvious. Still, the majority of the tunes here are thoroughly enjoyable and display chops musically, vocally and lyrically. Fans of gentle, jazzy pop, like Norah Jones, Michael Buble, Jason Mraz, or Regina Spektor and the like would find much to enjoy in Mel Flannery’s wonderful voice and great songwriting.

Andy Davis successfully appeals to many listeners with piano

January 12, 2010

Andy DavisNew History EP falls neatly into the mature pop genre. Davis’ clear, soulful tenor fits neatly into the constraints of the genre, and his paino-led songwriting does similarly. It’s no knock to the quality of the EP; that’s just the way it is. If you like Mraz, the Fray, John Mayer, even Michael Buble, you’ll love Andy Davis.

Opener “That’s Where My Head Is” provides a twinge of country to the epic sweep of his piano and vocal melodies through harmonica and organ. The song shows that Davis knows how to write songs to best dramatic effect, and that he can make hits if he keeps writing long enough with the right breaks. “New History” is an upbeat version of the same theme, played on a keyboard instead of a true piano. The chorus breaks into an unusual mood, but it’s definitely enjoyable. “Hard to Believe” is a “Fix You”-esque ballad where Davis puts his full emotional scope on display. It’s easily the best overall track on the EP, and it will certainly find placement on future mixtapes.

The most intriguing track of the five-song EP, however, is “Passing Trains.” Davis abandons well-worn chords and sounds to produce a more free-flowing style, creating a distinct mood. The song sticks out on the EP, which is otherwise very standard songs that are easily palatable radio songs (again, not a dig; that’s what it is). The heavily atmospheric mood that’s created through percussion, reverb, unusual instruments and wordless vocals is incredibly interesting and merits repeated listens. I listened to it most out of all the tracks.

Andy Davis’ New History EP is a great collection of songs. For those who love “I’m Yours,” all songs but track two will pique your interest. If you like unusual and progressive songwriting, “Passing Trains” will give you pause. To appeal to such disparate audiences on the same short EP is impressive. If Davis finds a way to meld the two approaches, he will be on to something fantastic.

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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